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2013-12-26

City again without code enforcement

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

After a short but eventful career, Victor Strickland has resigned as city inspector and code enforcement officer for the City of Bandera. He was apparently hired for the position in September and resigned on Tuesday, Dec. 17, without citing a reason, according to City Administrator Mike Cardenas.
Since coming onboard, Strickland's enforcement of the city's heretofore largely ignored sign ordinance, has resulted in controversies with restaurateurs Rick Anderson and Henry "Hy" Rabon, owner of the Old Forge, as well as with other city business owners.
When addressing city council during the Thursday, Dec. 12, meeting, Rabon distributed a packet to councilmen that included a letter from Rebecca C. Reyes of the Texas Department of State Health Services. Reyes serves as open records coordinator in the Professional Licensing and Certification Unit.
Responding to Rabon's open records request, Reyes indicated that Strickland was not licensed by the State of Texas as a code enforcement officer. Reyes' letter was dated Dec. 11.
Interestingly, on Dec. 13, Margaret Paradee, president of the Bandera Business Association, sent the Courier an unsolicited fax on which she noted: "Just for your information, Victor does not have to have a license. This was worked out with the city, Mike and attorney."
Paradee's email also referenced Chapter 140, Subchapter D, Rule 140.166 - Exemptions, specifically, "This state or a political subdivision of this state in not required to employ a person registered under this Act if the state or political subdivision engages in code enforcement."
The statute continues: "However, if this state or political subdivision of the state employs a person who used the title "code enforcement officer," the person must be registered under this Act.
When the Courier first reported on Oct. 31 about the sign kerfuffle, Cardenas identified Strickland as a city inspector and code enforcement officer. However, on a Notice of Violation, dated Sept. 17, 2013, as well as on his City on Bandera business card, Strickland is identified as "city inspector-code enforcement."
Although it would appear that Stickland's resignation renders all the brouhaha moot, several items that arose during his short stint remain to be addressed.
Outstanding items include Anderson's cancelled appearance before municipal court to address two violations issued for allegedly failing to adhere to the city sign ordinance. Originally slated for Dec. 13, the postponed hearing has yet to be rescheduled.
Also problematic is a petition signed by 46 business owners within the City of Bandera, requesting that the Bandera Sign Ordinance be updated and changed in light of recent wrangling. Rabon presented the petition to city council on Dec. 12.
During that meeting, the only business owner who spoke in favor of the sign ordinance - which she apparently help craft - was Paradee. In fact, she noted, "If you're going into business here, get a lawyer and read the sign ordinance."
Reminding council that all city ordinances were codified in 2008, Tony Battle, chairman of the City of Bandera Planning and Zoning Committee, also felt the sign ordinance was adequate as stands. However, Battle finally ceded his commission would explore the sign ordinance with interested business owners. Letting P&Z deal with the disgruntled merchants precluded Mayor Don Clark from appointing a committee to deal with that task.
Also, Anderson's request for the names of individuals or businesses that had made a complaint about his business sign prompting the city's investigation has yet to be released. A city attorney had forwarded Anderson's FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for other citations issued on Sept. 17 and the complainant(s) on his case to the Office of the Texas Attorney General for an opinion. Consequently, the AG ruled that Anderson was entitled to all information requested; however, the names of the complainant(s) have not been forthcoming, according to Anderson.
In a subsequent letter, Anderson informed the AG that the city had refused to release the name(s) of the complaint(s) to him as required. The noncompliance on the part of the city remains under investigation.
Also extant is a resolution to Stickland's Dec. 11 inspection of Anderson's temporary business at 1114A Main Street. At that time, Strickland's action request noted: "R/O observed that its location had an illegal wall sign and that the business, according to City Code, Sec. 4.04.009, is a prohibited business in the city. R/O suggests that all city permits be pulled and trailer removed from the city limits."
This section of the city code discusses wheeled vehicles or trailers and portable buildings - except in connection with a temporary business duly licensed by the city. Anderson's license for a temporary business was issued by the city in May 2013.
Cardenas told the Courier he did not ask Strickland to make a second inspection of Anderson's business, and no citations have been issued as a result of the Dec. 11 inspection.
For his part, Anderson describes the inspection as "harassment and retaliation."